Imatges de pàgina
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for whatever might be thought of a power in any Government to arrest without any cause, and to detain for an unlimited time, it was generally admitted that persons confined in the Bastile had every accommodation which a state of confinement allowed. As to the bill before the House no grounds had been stated for it, much less was there any cause for the precipitation with which it had been hurried on. Sir Francis faid, he had come down the preceding day to state his reasons against it, but he found that at a very early period of the evening it had been disposed of. It was a measure, however, which demanded all the attention of the House; it was more important than any measure of finance could be, inasmuch as men's persons were of more confequence than their property. He was the more surprised at this, because when he made his inotion for a list of persons taken up under the act for sufpending the Habeas Corpus, to which the right hon. Gentleman had thought proper to agree for reafons of his own, and not for those which were stated in support of it, a kind of threat was thrown out that a renewal of the bill would be moved, and that the right hon. Gentleman should then unfold the dangers with which the country was threatened, and bring forward the proofs of the conspiracies which had exifted. No ground had, in his opinion, been stated on which the House could furrender fo important a bulwark of the liberties of the subject.

The Speaker said, I wish to fet the hon. Member right. The bill was not hurried through the House, for a notice of a motion for leave to bring it in, was given some days before by the Secretary of State, and it was not till after the House had gone through some public business, being near five o'clock, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Pitt) brought in the bill.

The Solicitor General said, one good effect had followed from the discussion, that it seemed to be admitted that now there was no reason to complain of the manner in which the ftate prisoners were treated. It was a habit, however, with gentlemen on the other side of the House, to bestow upon every measure which originated op this, and on every part of the conduct of administration, the most opprobrious epithets. One thing resembled Robespierre's committee ; another the Taille in France, and they were compared to any thing that was likely to excite prejudice. What were then the reasons for continuing the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act? One hon. Gentleman said he had a Tented to it on the finding of a grand jury. When the nature of the thing is cooly consider

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ed, however, it would be seen that this could not be any reason for agreeing to the measure. The purpose of suspending the Habeas Corpus act was to enable the executive government to secure such persons as were suspeed to be conspiring, and against whom no case could be immediately made out. From the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act this country had, in different periods, derived the greatest advantage. - It was used in King William's reign when many persons were hostile to the existing establishment, and it contributed to confirm the authority and the safety of the new government. In the rebellion of 1715 it had been uled with the utmost advantage. Many persons supposed to be ill affected to the family on the throne were taken up, and when the danger was once over, were set at liberty, and to this falutary measure the country owed its safety. The benefits resulting from it were the more conspicuous when contrafted with the situation of affairs at a period when it was not employed. The rebellion of 1745, though at a period when the family on the throne was more firinly established, and when the prejudices against the line of succession had Tublider, threatened to be of more serious consequence to the public fatety than the former attempt, because in the former case the concert and plans of the leaders were defeated., What had happened in Ireland ? the discoveries made in that country afforded powerful reasons for the measure. It was then proved, and it had likewise

been proved to those who artended the trials at Maidstone, • that attempts had been made to institute focieties of United

Britons; that governments within governments were organized with all the appendages of executive directories, councils, and committees. It was very casy to understand that, though such deligns did exift, it was extremely difficuli to bring them home to any individual, because individual guilt was so wrapped up in the general inals. In Ireland, catbolic emancipation had been the pretext for deep designs of trealon, and the veil employed to conceal the plot for diffolving the conneciion between the two countries.-Reform was here the pretext, and would any hon. Gentleman say that this pretence concealed nothing? The powers commit:ed tu executive government had often been employed with the ulinoti advantage to the public safety. They had in recent tines, as well as in earlier periods of our history, enabled us to defeat the dangers with which we were threatened, and till the danger was fully over, it was the duty of the House to grant those powers by which only it could be encountered. Pp2

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Mr. Mainwaring said, that as he was in some degree im. plicated in what had been taid on the subject of the treatment of the state prisoners, it was to be observed that the correction house in Cold Bath Fields had not been established for any such purpose as that for which, in the present situation of affairs, it had been found neceffary to employ it. With regard to its management, he could say that ihere were none of the abuses stated. The keeper of that jail was a person of great humanity and attention to his duty, and every care was exerted for preserving the health and comfort of perfons confined. He was sure that there was not a more comfortable. place of the kind in the whole country, or in one which, in proportion to the numbers confined, there was less fickness. Every thing was provided for the state prisoners in the inoft liberal manner. He did not know to what the hon. Barone t (Sir Francis Burdett) had alluded when he said, that the prifoners were out only for a few minutes; they were out every day for several hours, and he now understood that they were allowed to be altogether in the same rovin. Of the propriety of such an indulgence, he was not called upon to say any thing, but if he had been consulted as a magistrate respecting such a thing, he thould have confidered it his duty to refuse it. Unquestionably great misrepresentation must have been given of the state of persons confined in this prison, and the manner in which it was regulated.

Mr. Wilberfirme Taid, that as a great deal of misrepresentation had arifen upon this subject, it was extremely important that it thould be inily explained, and that the false in prerfions which it had been attempted to make on the minds of the public should be removedl. A day or two ago, he had received a letter from a friend of his, informing hin, that certain representations had been made 10 Gentlemen in that House, conmonly called members of oppofition, respecting the situation and treatment of fate prisoners, which were very likely to be incorrect. His frienil, therefore, to enable him to judge of the subject, had sent him minutes of the proceedings of the magistrates who fuperintend the condud of the priloners, with remarks on the fate of the prison; to this fubject he had not had an opportunity to turn his attention, as his mind had been occupied with the important plan of finance before the House. He had now, however, revised the documents and oblervations sent by his friend, and they would be found to be of great importance in clearing up the subject of the treatment of the state prisoners. Hu

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was astonished at what the hon. Baronet had said, respecting the situation of the prison in Cold Bath-fields; he had been there as well as the bon. Baronet, not for the purpose of visite ing any particular persons there, or on the spur of the occafion, but to exainine the general state of the place, and to view the fituation of the prisoners. He had likewise been in the habit of corresponding on the subject, before there was any idea of its being agitated there, and the accounts he had heard were very diferent from what some: Gentlemen had stated that day.' H had been informed, that by the prudent regulatious which then prevailed, several persons had been reclaimed from habits of vice and idleness, to industry and good behaviour, and had been restored to society as useful subjects. The charge which had been made, was certainly of a very serious nature, it was no light thing to say, that the Executive Government could be fo malignant, as'to exercise any severity against the persons taken up, farther than was neceitary for fufe cuftody, and to prevent them from tainting the minds of those with whom they had communication in confinement. It was a charge either against his right hon. Friend, or against the noble Duke, more immediately at the head of this depa: tment; or against those who were more directly employed in the custody and superintendance of the prisoners. The latter were persons who in their station were no lets respectable than his right hon. Friend and the Duke of Portland, and who muit equally feel for their character; no body impuled to his right hon. Friend, or to the noble Duke, any partioular inclination to rigour, and the magiftrates to whom ti e superintendance of the prison belonged, were therefore implicated if any extracrdinary severity was exercised. From the documents of his Friend he was enabled to lay before the House a great deal of satisfactory information It was proper in the first place to observe, that the regulations which prevailed in this prison were many of them founded upon the principles recommended by the excellent Mi. Howard, and superintended by several persons who had an active and laborious Mare with tliat benevolent character in his enquiries upon the subject. Different boards existed to superinichik the regulations, and to receive information respecting the state of the prison. One of these boards met at lealt once a weck, and the minutes of their proceedings would be found io contain much matter which would throw light on the prefent question. As he was reading the account of the prison in these documents, and heard

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the representations given of it, he could not conceive any contralt more striking. It reminded him of the story in “ Joseph Andrews,” of the different remarks which were made by two travellers in a ftage-coach on the charader of a gentleman whose estate they pailed. One said that he was the best hufband and father, the most generous friend, that existed. The other, who had been alleep during this panegyric, awoke, and remarked the fine estate they passed, and lamented that it belonged to such a rascal. Parson Adams, in the simplicity of his heart, concluded that the Gentlemen must have been speaking of different perfons, and when he himself compared , the representation of honourable Gentlemen with the documents berore him he was almost tempted to think that gentlemen on the other side could not be talking of the same perfon. Nothing can be more satisfactory than the account which his fricnd gave of the state of the prison, as to the health and treatment of the prisoners. The gentleman who wrote the letter, a respectable clergyman, stated (here Mr. W. read several extracts) that he had seen the food intended for the prisoners, which consisted of as good legs of mutton and pieces of beef as he had ever seen at his own table; that the utmost cleanliness prevailed thronghout the place; that of the number of which the prison contained at any one time, which was two hundred and forty, the fick were only three, and the deaths for the whole year only two, though if the situation of many of the persons when they came in was confidered, the place rather resembled an hofpiral than a prison. The minutes of the Guings of the magiitrates, to which he had ailuded, would serve to hery what had been the conduct of Come of the prisoners, and the necesity there was to watch them with care. It appeared in these minutes that it was Itated by the chaplain that two of the persoas confined in this place, Burkes and Smith, had behaved fo ill at church, had so openly expreffed their contempt of the worihip, that he proposed that their attendance thould in future be dispensed with. These ininutes likewise contained the message of Lord Kenyon on the occasion alludded to by his learned friend (the Attorney General), and testified his lordship’s approba. tion of the conduct of the magiftrates, and the manageme: of the prison in the higheit terms. It was so very in.poriant now that the subject was under discussion that the mirrepres fentations which had gone abroad should be thoroughly correctei, that he hoped the House would forgive his dwelling upon it with some minuteness of detail. What then was the

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